SCV’s health care workers adapt to new normal amid coronavirus

Leah Phillips, second from left, and Victora Yoguez, far right, with fellow health care workers at Providence Holy Cross. Courtesy

Though not all are directly on the front lines, the lives of many health care workers have changed dramatically since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Leah Phillips has worked at Providence Holy Cross for nearly 25 years and says this is the first time she’s ever experienced anything like this.

Phillips and Victoria Yoguez are registered nurses working in palliative care at Providence with patients who are chronically or seriously ill.

“We see a lot of patients that are back and forth to the hospital, so our role is to really meet them where they’re at, define goals of care and talk about quality of life,” Phillips said. “We actually establish relationships with these people because they’re in so frequently.”

They agree the most difficult change they’ve seen since the outbreak of COVID-19 is the change in policy prohibiting visitation.

“It’s challenging not having the families be at their bedside, it really pulls on your heartstrings,” Yoguez said. “However, I think it’s important that we are their (families’) eyes here … They’re trusting that we’re caring for them and doing the best we can.”

Dr. Marwa Kilani, Victora Yoguez (above) and Leah Phillips, left to right, working at Providence Holy Cross. Courtesy

Instead, they use video chats, like FaceTime, Skype and Zoom, to have family conferences and connect patients with their loved ones.

“That’s been a positive thing, and I think that we’ll probably even be seeing more and more on telemedicine going forward,” Phillips said.

“It’s comforting when you get a call, and at least, I find that they appreciate that,” Yoguez added. “They’re very patient and accepting of the rules that we have to follow … Once this is over, I’m hoping that this is just something that we’ve all learned from.”

Other changes at Providence are welcome ones in the current health crisis, such as checking temperatures at the door and mandating personal protective equipment, or PPE.

“And, we’re health care providers, so we always wash our hands, (though) some of us don’t have skin left,” Phillips added, chuckling. “The hospital did a wonderful job working with infection control, and implementing (procedures).”

Even so, Phillips says it’s working collaboratively as a team that has made them successful during this time.

Leah Phillips, right, and Victora Yoguez, center, with fellow health care workers at Providence Holy Cross. Courtesy

Dr. Neela Sethi of Valencia Pediatrics has also seen changes in the workplace, as she continues to see patients while clad in double masks, scrubs and eye protection.

“The jovial, lighthearted look of the office has definitely changed,” she said. “Our personalities are the same, but we’re definitely extra cautious and extra careful … We’re still super happy to see our kids, and we still really want to encourage people to come to the office because you still need to be seen and vaccines need to happen … because the other diseases haven’t stopped.”

After getting numerous questions from parents daily, Sethi took to social media, posting videos reminding people to stay home, while also answering common questions she’s received about COVID-19.

“It’s a weird, confusing time, and nobody really knows who to believe or what’s happening,” Sethi said. “People need knowledge … so I just use it as a platform to help the community, trying to kind of encourage people to be positive, but also offer information. I just think if I can spread some local awareness and decrease our numbers locally, then that’s a great thing.”

Dr. Neela Sethi working at Valencia Pediatrics. Courtesy

Sethi strives to focus on the facts while staying lighthearted, working to put an end to some of the misinformation she’d been seeing, she said.

“At the beginning, we knew very quickly that we could flatten the curve locally by just empowering patients with knowledge,” she said, adding that her first video was a simple plea for people to stay home.

Since then, she’s posted numerous videos, answering questions as they come and updating viewers on the current situation, such as the new mandate to wear face coverings, while also reminding everyone to stay positive.

“Keep that chin up is what I’ve been saying in my videos,” Sethi said. “We’re gonna get through this, and we’re going to be stronger than ever, but attitude is everything and positivity really goes very far in a time like this.

“We’re a really, really strong community,” she added. “That’s one thing that I’ve learned through this whole process, is I’ve never been more proud of our tiny little town, even though it’s not as tiny as it used to be … We’re doing a great job and the more conservative we are, the quicker we’re going to get through this.”

I‘ve never asked you for anything…until now. You can save lives tomorrow by what you do today. Please help us help you. We are in this together and we need you NOW more than ever. Love, Healthcare professionals around the world ????IG @doctorneela

Posted by Neela Sethi Young on Wednesday, March 25, 2020

As a manager at Aegis Treatment Centers, an outpatient opiate addiction treatment center, Jill Teagardin’s daily routine has changed quite a bit.

Typically, they offer patients therapy and medicated-assisted treatment, while adhering to strict federal, state and county regulations.

“Patients come in daily for their medication and have weekly, individual and group counseling,” Teagardin said. “Patients who are program-compliant and successful in their recovery eventually receive take-home medication, so they aren’t required to come in daily to receive their medication.”

Due to the current health crisis and the need to minimize contact, Aegis’ chief medical officer was able to get approval from the government to enable more patients to have eligibility for take-home medication, while allowing counselors as well as medical staff to work from home and provide telehealth services.

“Since the state emergency came about so rapidly, it took time to get all of the special arrangements and processes in place,” Teagardin said. “However, once we were approved, the changes happened very quickly, and patients have expressed a great deal of gratitude to the company for taking measures to ensure their safety, as well as that of our staff.”

Teagardin also welcomed the changes, as they were necessary for both patients and staff to feel safe in continuing treatment, she said.

“The last thing we want is for patients to relapse because of fear or lack of access to treatment,” Teagardin added. “I do miss seeing the patients on a daily basis and having the in-person interaction, though.”

Still, her days begin before 5 a.m. as she works to stay up to date, checking in with both patients and staff throughout the day and answering any questions or concerns they may have.

“Every day is different, but my priority daily is to be there for our patients and staff,” she said.

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